Whether summer seemed to drag for you, or whether it flew by at the speed of a runaway train, every summer must come to an end.
At this time of year, most schools are starting up, or have already begun. Whatever your situation, we at Seton hope the following tips will aid you at the beginning of a new homeschooling year.
1. Prayer goals
Whether you are beginning a new assignment or a new year, begin with humility, trusting that God will provide everything you need to complete the task at hand, and complete it well.
Parents choose homeschooling for any number of reasons, but one of the most important reasons is so that they may give to their children the inestimable gift of the Catholic Faith and virtues.
If this was a factor in your decision to homeschool, trust that you are doing God’s Will and that He will therefore help you. This does not mean homeschooling is easy. Worldly temptations abound in our society. Therefore, renew your family prayer life this September.
Make a prayer schedule, writing down your most important spiritual goals. If possible, Mom and Dad together might attend a day-long spiritual retreat (bring your nursing baby along, if you have one), or perhaps send your teenagers on a retreat or a short mission trip.
Try to attend daily Mass with your whole family. Pray the Rosary every day, as Our Lady of Fatima requested. Instead of watching that sitcom, turn the TV to EWTN.
In the car, put on sacred or Christian music or listen to a religious talk, perhaps from the Institute of Catholic Culture or Lighthouse Media.
2. Plan the School Year Ahead
Think about what you want to accomplish this year. If you homeschooled last year, think about last year.
- What did the kids (and you) enjoy?
- How did they learn best?
- What did not go well?
- Above all, what can you do as a family to make this year the best ever?
When that box full of new textbooks arrives in the mail, kids often get excited and want to open it right away.
We recommend, however, that Mom or Dad be there when they do to make sure nothing gets misplaced, especially the packing list that shows everything that is in the boxes (you will want to hold on to that in case one of the books you ordered is on backorder or in case something needs to be returned to Seton).
The older students, together with Mom or the primary teacher, should look over all the lesson plans a week or two before classes begin. Familiarize yourself with each course, its objectives and its textbooks. What assignments must be sent to Seton for grading? What assignments are optional?
Remember the lesson plans are meant to be a guide only. Adjust them as you see fit. If your children learn quickly, they may be able to skip some of the drill work, as long as they prepare well for the tests. Make a daily schedule for each member of the family, including every subject.
Plan chores around the class schedule, and consider making a daily or weekly chore schedule for the family. For Mom’s sake, make sure everyone helps with the cooking and cleaning, even the youngest members.
3. Be Creative
As part of your planning process, be creative. Think outside the box. If your child loves art, make time for a short art class every day. If your child wants to be a veterinarian, add biology or zoology lessons to your class schedule. Teach what your child loves to learn.
Allow him or her a little more time on favorite subjects. Try a different approach with the subjects that your child does not like, perhaps more oral work and less written drills. Every child has unique talents and learning styles, and you might consider giving your child less monotonous homework, as long as he learns the essentials of every subject.
The beginning of the year is the best time to plan field trips. When leaves are changing color, schedule a hike at a state park and learn about local flora and fauna.
Plan a trip to an art or history museum in the winter when there will be fewer crowds. Visit a zoo or an arboretum in the spring when the weather is nice.
If possible, begin organizing your home as soon as the textbooks arrive. Give each child a special place to keep his own books and other supplies, whether it is his own shelf on the bookcase or a box in his room.
Purchase supplies that can make homeschooling easier, such as desks, shelves, tables, bins, or closet organizers. If money is tight, look for these at yard sales or on Craigslist. Give each student a binder for each subject. Have a daily planner for each student.
Make sure each student has plenty of paper, pens, staples, highlighters, etc., at the beginning of the year.
5. Stay Flexible
After a week or a month of homeschooling, you might find that your original goals were a little unrealistic. Do not allow yourself to become discouraged! Be hopeful and optimistic. There is a saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Sometimes our plans do not work out.
Sometimes everything seems chaotic and the children do not seem to make any progress. At times like these, pray and trust that God has better things planned for your family. Continue to make plans, but adjust your class or chore schedules, if necessary.
Always remember, textbook knowledge is less important than virtuous living. It is good for your children to memorize the times table, but not as good as knowing that they are loved by God and by you. Take time to have fun with your children.
Tell them every day that you love them, and try to show it by how you teach them.